Ancestors • पूर्वज

Location: Kanheri caves

मेरे पुरखों की विरासत का भरम रहने दे
तू हवेली को खुला देख के अंदर मत जा
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A verse from the Ghazal by Qaisar-Ul Zafri (Book: Agar Darya Mila Hota). Read the whole ghazal here.
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Translation:

Let the legacy of ancestors stay in illusions at least,
Don’t invade their mansion seeing the open doors
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This verse is apt for the relationship between humans and other creatures. Nature does not discriminate against any species, whatever it has, is there for everyone. Yet, humans have exploited and hoarded Nature since the very beginning..

I interpret this verse as following –

Nature and all of its inter-dependent elements are dying fast; their legacy is now almost as good as an illusion because of us Humans. So the poet says ‘पुरखों की विरासत का भरम रहने दे’ – let it exist in illusions at least.

Just because nature is there for all, just because nature’s doors are always open to all, ‘तू हवेली को खुला देख के अंदर मत जा’ – don’t take it as an open invitation to exploit it.

Location: Kanheri caves

Sea • समुंदर

Location: Vashi bridge

एक दिन मैं तुम्हें बताऊँगा
समुंदर वहाँ से शुरू होता है
जहाँ से ख़ुश्की नज़र आनी ख़त्म हो जाए
फिर हम जब चाहेंगे
नज़्मों की किताब से
एक वरक़ फाड़ कर कश्ती बना लेंगे
और
दूसरा वरक़ फाड़ कर
समुंदर
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ख़ुश्की – ज़मीन – Dryland
वरक़ – पन्ना – Page
कश्ती – नाव – Boat
नज़्म – मुक्त छंद कविता – Unrhymed poem
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(अफ़ज़ल अहमद सय्यद की नज़्म ‘हम किसी से पूछे बग़ैर ज़िंदा रहते हैं‘)

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Translation:

One day, I’ll tell you,
The ocean begins
where the sight of parched land ends
Then, whenever we please,
From the book of poems
We can tear one page
to make a boat
and
Another page
to draw an ocean..

What do you see from your window?

Do you witness the beautiful dawn that promises hope? Or your window is more fond of sunsets? Do you enjoy the glimpses of the afternoon? Or does your window love to expose you to the merciless wrath of the Sun?

What do you see from your window? Another window? Buildings? Trees? Birds? Nests? Mobile towers? Brazen, barren branches? All of these? Or none of these?

Does your window show you the roads? Do you see the people running like ants, struggling to follow their routine? Or is your window too high off from the ground that you can’t see what goes around the Mother Earth?

Do you see trucks, carrying the basic necessities of our lives? Do you see municipality’s garbage trucks? Do you see the quick rush of adrenaline in people when the RTO contractors inspect the street for vehicles parked in ‘no-parking zone’? Do you see the grin on the faces when they pick someone’s bike or car? Do you see a group of people asking if people can’t even read the signboard? Do you see the other group arguing that there is no space left to park? Do you see a third party of people that look somehow content that they don’t possess any vehicle and convince themselves that a simple life is better because they don’t have any choice anyway?

Do you see the street vendors from your window? Do you turn and take a peek at what they’re selling? Do you see the posh humans coming in their cars to bargain with those street vendors for smallest of the small things? Do you see the rush of street vendors to run away when someone comes with the news that police is coming? Do you see the evil grins of the customers who were buying stuff from them just a minute before they had to run?

Do you see the railway tracks being the permanent residence of countless humans? Do you see their children playing on those tracks for doing which you’d forbid your own children?

Do you see the scavengers entering the potholes which are full of your own shit that you flinch to deal with? Do you see that waste-picker woman who curses you under her breath for not sorting out the waste properly?

Do you see the coal black smoke making rounds in the air you breathe? Do you witness the rare times when flocks of birds decide to take the risk and fly the sky that we spoil daily? Do you see the rats and pigeons crashed under the cars that spoil the sky for birds?

Do you see the street dogs attending a late night conference? Do you see the empty streets that look peaceful the whole night?

Do you see the marches of people asking for humanity? Do you see the mobs whose specific aim is to smash every aspect of humanity?

Do you see the funeral processions rarely passing through the street? Do you see the young couple taking home their newborn, overwhelmed and overjoyed?

Do you see that lone labourer who drinks on the street to forget the day’s endurance? Do you see the rich kids who decide to take a stroll through the road on the empty streets of night on their new bikes? Do you see the nervous woman returning late from work, constantly looking behind and checking every direction? Do you see that corporate employee walking home after recieving a big scolding from his boss, plotting how to punish his family for his bad mood?

What do you see from your window?

Dear patriarchs of the ‘modern’ age..

It’s the birth anniversary of honourable Jotirao Phule. We are in the middle of a global pandemic, and it strongly reminds us of the time when his wife and a great social reformer Savitribai Phule selflessly helped people during 1897’s plague epidemic and later succumbed to it. That was true sacrifice, many say, and I agree. But he was long gone before that plague pandemic.

I am not here to count Savitribai and Jotiba Phule’s social contributions or achievements; people have been doing that quite efficiently. I am just a nobody who wonders how and why they were what they were. How they could function the way they did, while in today’s era I am yet to find an example with even an ounce of similarity. I do think about this a lot, because the very fact that I am sitting in front of my laptop, writing, that too in English, is because these two rebeled against centuries of oppression of women and the marginalized and gave them the torch of education.

Crazy, is one word I can think of, when I think of them and countless other humans who were way ahead of their respective times. May it be Siddhartha who went on exile to prevent his family’s exclusion from Saakya clan because of his anti-war stance, or may it be Yuang Chwang’s (Xuanzang) 4 years of deadly venture through the desserts to communicate Indian Buddhism with that of Chinese, or may it be Maharshi Karve’s Periodical “Samaaj Swasthya” to create awareness about sexual health or Dr. Ambedkar’s firm stances on every issue concerning humanity (including his resignation in support of Hindu code Bill that was supposed to be women’s legal liberator, or his support for LGBTQ rights and the case he fought for Karve’s Samaaj Swasthya)..

Can you, dear men, wrap your head around the fact that Savitribai lit Jotiba’s pyre in 1890 when most of you still don’t allow women to even visit the cremation in 2020..? Can you understand how ahead of their time they were when Jotiba asked the Brahmins if Brahma menstruated through his mouth (along with other three parts from where other castes originated) since they so enthusiastically claim that they’re high because they originated from his mouth?

Can you dare to ask these questions even today? Can you even think of these queries today in 2020? Do you even acknowledge them fully? Can you sleep after limiting them to their specific castes/religions and pretending that they don’t bother you? How does it feel to look them in the eyes-though in photographs-while garlanding them on their birth/death anniversaries? So many of you sing praises of Chhatrapati Shivaji Maharaj’s bravery and welfare state, how many of you know that Jotiba Phule had found his tomb and initiated celebration of his birth anniversary? How many of you can claim with evidence that you follow them to the fullest? How many of you know that his name was Jotiba/Jotirao and not Jyotiba/Jyotirao (“Joti” meaning plough, a peasant/labouring caste metaphor) ? Today’s elite Marathi women remember Raja Rammohan Roy, Agarkar, Tilak, etc when it comes to male social reformers; do they remember that Jotiba Phule and Savitribai Phule must have helped the past widows in their families who were victims of abuse? Do they remember that Tilak was opposed to the idea of women’s education and ridiculed the work of Jotiba and Savitribai?

Can you imagine yourself sharing every resources and opportunities you got with your wives like Jotiba Phule did? Can you tolerate your wife having her individual existence like Jotiba Phule promoted his wife to have, so that she could help rise countless other women and the future generations? Can you imagine sharing your dreams, your interpretation of the world with your wife to have a common existence to uphold the society?

Can you notice the stark contrast that Jotiba and Savitribai founded Balhatya Pratibandhak Griha (infant/child-murder Prohibition Home) for pregnant rape victims to help deliver and save their children, while we still have to impose ban in 2020 on sex determination of foetuses to prevent female foeticide AND the politicians still win elections by promising suspension of this ban? (The authorities have found a new excuse of the pandemic and suspended the ban for two months at least, without taking the possible misuse of it into account. Funny, isn’t it?) Can we pause for a minute and think how brave of them it was to question the British power back then; while we, in 2020, mutely accept that our leaders continue enduring all the bullying by the so called superpowers?

You, who impose that women should cover their body in front of male ‘family members’; you, who still wrap menstrual hygiene products in a paper and insist that women should smuggle it from room to room as if it’s heroin or cocaine; you, who simply glorify women’s suffering instead of making the society equal for all; you, who deliberately overlook the statistics of the overall oppression and exploitation of women while repeatedly disbelieving their complaints; you, who resort to illogical whataboutary and violence when anyone questions or threatens the irrational existence of your authority, you can never ask these questions.

A friend of mine said once that love for a person and love for the society cannot be mingled. He strongly believes that once you fail/are denied love from a person, then you go on a ‘spiritual mode’ and start believing in the love for the society and help the society. I DON’T agree. Look at Jotirao and Savitribai; Jotirao unlearned all the norms and stereotypes enforced by the society and shared his dreams and passions with Savitribai. Savitribai took it further, and together, they made a beautiful world-no matter how surreal it seems even today-that keeps motivating those who seek it. It’s impossible to study their social and personal existence separately. If they could do it, we have no excuse..

Keep me alive in your memories..

be-here-now

When Shalini finally came to know that her daughter Leila is alive and safe, she shared her joy with her friend. Friend? Or co-worker? Is there a word such as ‘co-sufferer’? Because that’s what they all were. As close to ‘friends’ as they could be. This ‘friend’, on the day Shalini was going to meet Leila, said to Shalini, “Leila ko mere baare mein batana haan..! (Do tell Leila about me!)” with so much enthusiasm, as if she was going to get the Nobel prize. We never saw her again, we don’t know what her fate was, also because it’s a fictional character.

But the important thing was that she wanted to be remembered. She didn’t know Shalini, she hadn’t even seen Leila, but by considering the little time she might’ve spent with Shalini, she thought she could be remembered by them. As a friend, as a co-worker, as a ‘co-sufferer’, as enemy, or in whatever way they’d seem fit.

Don’t we all want to leave something behind? Depending on which point we are on the scale of privilege and merit, the genre of the legacy that we want to leave would differ. Some would try to buy a cottage for their children, some would spend their life to send signals to aliens. Quite a variety of aspirations, really! But the aspiration to leave a legacy is common. This aspiration gives one something to live for. It gives one a big list of unfulfilled demands for the lifetime. To some, it gives hope. For some, it sucks out their presence in the present. Those who don’t have it, berate those who do. Those who have it, pity those who don’t. Deep inside, everyone knows that it is always there, in some or the other form. It ends only when we actually start living in the present.

But that’s difficult, isn’t it? How easily we procastinate something as simple as a blood test, or disregard years of research done on environmental crisis or reject the concept of something so obvious as ‘end’. The very first reflex is ignorance, because we don’t like to accept vulnerability, because we don’t like to acknowledge limitations or weakness. Instead, we start mocking those who do. We patronize them, belittle them and hope that everyone just forgets them.

The aspiration to leave a legacy comes from the same place. I wonder what we actually achieve by doing that. One day, I am sure I’ll find the answer.

Till then, we sing, ‘Achcha chalte hain, Duaon mein yaad rakhna…!’ (Okay I am leaving for now, but remember me in your prayers)

रघू

IMG_20190629_171058_014

मैं हूँ रघू, फिलहाल किसी शहर की छोटी सी झोपडी में रह रहा हूँ| बाप मजदूर है, पर अब उस के पास कोई काम नहीं है| उस के साथ काम करने वाले बाकी साथी भी हमारी बस्ती में ही रहते हैं| जब कोई काम मिलता है तब हमें एक जगह से दूसरी जगह जाना पडता है| फिर घर, दोस्त स्कूल सब पीछे छूट जाता है| इसलिए मैं ज्यादा लोगों से बात नहीं करता| हाँ कुछ दिन स्कूल गया था, वहाँ कुछ दोस्त भी बनाए थे, लेकिन वहाँ से निकलने के बाद फिर मुलाकात नहीं हुई|

इस बस्ती में आ कर ज्यादा देर नहीं हुई है, लेकिन इमारत के काम में अफसरों ने कुछ घोटाला किया था, इसलिए सरकार ने काम रोक दिया| मैं ने सोचा, जब तक बाप को अगला काम नहीं मिलता, तब तक मैं ही कुछ काम कर लेता हूँ| तो अब मैं आस पास गाडियों की सफाई करता हूँ| वैसे अच्छे पैसे मिल जाते हैं, लेकिन मैं वो माँ के पास देता हूँ, छिपा कर रखने के लिए| वरना सारे बाप के शराब-सुट्टे में ही खर्च हो जाते हैं| बस्ती में मेरे जैसे और भी लडके हैं, ये देखिये ये चिंटू है, और वो राखा| लडकियाँ भी हैं, पर बेचारी माँओं के साथ चूल्हे की राख में खाँसती रहती हैं, तो उन से ज्यादा बात नहीं हो पाती|

राखा की माँ कल मर गई, बीमार थी बेचारी| लेकिन उस का बाप अब तक घर नहीं आया| तो सोचा, तीनों मिल कर आज के खाने का इंतज़ाम करें, मछली पकड कर| मैं ने और चिंटू ने राखा को दाँव बनाना तो सिखाया, पर उसे लग रहा है कि हम ने गलत सिखाया| उसकी भी गलती नहीं, आज पता नहीं क्यों, सिर्फ पलास्टिक की थैलियाँ और फूलों के हार ही निकल रहे हैं|

वो सूंड वाले भगवान कब आने वाले हैं? मेरे खयाल से दो महीनों बाद.. उन के पिछले साल के मंडपों से बहुत सारे हार इस तालाब में मिल रहे हैं| मुझे तो लगता है कुछ दिनों बाद यह पानी का नहीं, फूलों का तालाब बन जाएगा! “सडे हुए फूल और कूडे का तालाब” को आप की अंग्रेजी में क्या कहते है? जवाब ढूँढ कर मुझे ज़रूर बताना..

फिलहाल तो मुझे मछली पकडनी है, उम्मीद है, रात होने तक कुछ न कुछ तो ज़रूर मिलेगा..

Timor Mortis

We often hear old people saying, once this-some task-is done, I am free to die, or sometimes if everything is done they are happy to die. At such times there is always at least one person who says, why do you say such things? You are going to live long, don’t fuss. This particular person, or many a times this big group of people is many times present in everyone’s family. They are always cheerful about life and fearful about death though it’s someone else’s. They always poke those who talk about death, or dying people. They are those who don’t like to hear ‘he/she died‘, they jab and ask us to say ‘he/she passed away‘. They criticize bitching about someone who is dead, and teach us to ‘have some respect for the dead’ (even if the dead one had scammed the property worth millions, or betrayed his wife!) Basically, they are just not death-friendly (!).

But almost everyone does that, right? Many people try to postpone a medical test or skip it; they don’t want to know much, they like to stay in sweetened myth of a healthy life. It’s another thing that this attitude, many times leads them to a more advanced stage of their illness, may it be diabetes, heart disease or cancer, number of patients of which, are evolving in our country. There are many, who hide or don’t keep track of their ages. They’d dye their hair, use anti-aging products for skin, hide wrinkles and thus, their insecurities are utilized efficiently by various beauty product brands. Then there is a special category of those who call themselves ‘young at heart’, and try to sound cool to the younger generation by sometimes participating adventurous activities and come up with the one-liners such as ‘Age is just a number’ or ‘Age is a case of mind over matter’ etc. They are so overenthusiastic about everything that it makes us wonder, what exactly in goodness are they so excited about?

All this reminds me a distant relative’s 99th birthday party. The sons of the person had arranged that extravagant celebration, for this achievement (of reaching 99, which is rare these days!). My 6 year old nephew was stunned by the idea of elders celebrating extravagant birthday, he used to think that it was only for the younger ones. After a deep analysis, maybe he got an interesting conclusion. He said, ‘Okay, now I get it. It’s his 99th birthday, so when he’ll be 100 it’s finished! Right?’ One tight slap was the only response that he got. It’s funny how numbers play with our minds, the shopkeepers and brands play with us all the time by writing price as 499 or 999 instead of 500 and 1000. We say it’s a psychological tendency to feel that we saved so much more by buying the product worth 999 than by that worth 1000, though it’s just a rupee. Same was the case with this kid, who thought 100 is a complete number. He was a very thoughtful kid with vivid imagination, but all his skills got constricted by this incident; just because he predicted the person’s death, indirectly (surprisingly, the birthday-boy died before reaching 100! But let’s get serious..)

There are so many theories regarding death, afterlife. The entire ‘religious market’ is based on such theories only. Theory would be a very bad terminology, but the people following them take them very seriously. Every religion (except a few) tells only one thing, follow our terms and you’ll be placed in a world of infinite happiness after death. If you don’t, then the world of infinite suffering is ready for you. The entire life is then spent in worrying about the life after death, but that’s a different story. If, such a thing really exists and a majority of population follows it, then why is there such a hush-hush about death? Why fear death? And why ignore its nearing? Why ignore the aging? Or even if those worlds of happiness and suffering after death don’t exist, what is the point of this ignorance?

I wonder if it is because people have a tendency-not sure if it is natural-to shed big responsibilities. People always seem to struggle for power and authority, but it’s an illusion. They may like to rule a company, or a political party, or even just a small scale organization; they may like to have called upon stage to get awards or felicitation or even just a bouquet. But they don’t really like to accept the maturity that comes with age. When you convince yourself to be young at heart, when you cover your age, you deny the wisdom and knowledge of life that comes with it. In Tuesdays with Morrie, Prof. Morrie says,

”As you grow, you learn more. If you stayed at twenty-two, you’d always be as ignorant as you were at twenty-two. Aging is not just decay, you know. It’s growth. It’s more than the negative that you’re going to die, it’s also the positive that you understand you’re going to die, and that you live a better life because of it.”

All this philosophy sounds nice. But we always observe people saying I wish I were young again. For that, they create an illusion of this wish fulfilled. ‘Fulfilling’ this wish, varies from person to person, some like to ‘look’ young, some like to ‘feel’ young, some behave like youngsters, some take part in the mischiefs and spoil their grandkids-despite the defiance by kid’s parents-in order to be considered as a member of the kids’ gang. We never hear once, ‘I wish I was seventy.’ If aging is so valuable, why don’t we embrace it?

Because this ignorance reflects unsatisfied lives, unfulfilled lives. Lives that haven’t found meaning. Because if you’ve found meaning in your life, you don’t want to go back. You want to go forward. You want to see more, do more. You can’t wait until sixty-five. So all younger people should know this-if you always battle against getting older, you always suffer, because it will happen anyway. And the truest fact of life is that eventually, you ARE going to die. The only thing you can make sure is that the death doesn’t start early and stay for long time before actually dying. Morrie answers to the query if he is envious of the young,

”Oh, I guess I do. I envy them being able to go to the health club, or go for a swim. Or dance. Mostly for dancing. But envy comes to me, I feel it, and then I let it go. Let it go. Tell yourself, That’s envy, I’m going to separate from it now, And walk away. Of course, it is impossible for the old not to envy the young. But the issue is to accept who you are and revel in that. This is your time to be in your thirties. I had my time to be in my thirties, and now is my time to be seventy-eight. You have to find what’s good and true and beautiful in your life as it is now. Looking back makes you competitive. And, age is not a competitive issue.”

The truth about the old ones is, part of them is every age. They are three-­year-old, they are five-year-old, they are thirty-seven-year-old, they are fifty-year-old. They’ve been through all of them, and they know what it’s like. We should delight in being a child when it’s appropriate to be a child. We should delight in being a wise old man when it’s required to be a wise old man. Think of all we can be! We are every age, up to our own. So how can we be envious of where the young are, when we have already been there!